Emmys in Limbo as Negotiations for TV Rights Drag On

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The TV academy faces a production crunch in preparing for this year's show, which is less than five months away.

Less than five months before the Primetime Emmys are scheduled to be handed out, telecast rights to the ceremony are still in limbo. That's causing a mounting problem for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which is dependent on closing a new TV deal and, if negotiations drag on much further, might face a production crunch in preparing for this year's show.

The academy has conducted business as usual during the eight months of negotiations for a new deal with ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox to air the show on a revolving "wheel." Dates have been set, rules written, forms sent out, and networks, producers and publicists have been submitting shows to meet the April 29 submission deadline.

Yet there is still no broadcaster set to air the live telecast Sept. 18 from the Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live. The previous eight-year contract ran out after the show in August, and negotiations have sputtered along ever since.

The academy and its chief negotiator, attorney Kenneth Ziffren, as well as the broadcasters, declined to comment. But the buzz in Hollywood is that the two sides remain at loggerheads over some very key issues, even before they get to the annual license fee, which was $7.5 million for domestic rights last year.

"The networks are saying 'Hey, before you even talk about the money, we have other problems to discuss,'" says a source close to the negotiations. The issues? "Cable shows being recognized far more than broadcast, the ratings situation and engaging the audience," this person says. "And we have a problem you (the academy) don't seem to understand. You cannot put that many categories on a live broadcast in the time available to make compelling television."

The networks' desire to shorten the show would almost certainly mean cutting categories, especially those for writing and directing. They may be important to the industry but don't mean much to the public, which is a big issue since the show has experienced ratings declines over the past decade.

To move the writers or directors off primetime and onto the Creative Arts Emmys, which air on cable, would violate the current contracts the academy has with the WGA and DGA.

In a statement, the Academy says: “While the rumor of cutting awards is a subject that continues to surface, it would be irresponsible to report this as it is untrue and in no way delaying the negotiations with the networks.”Those issues are the reason the negotiations have stalled, at least for now, say sources, although everyone believes a deal will get done in the coming weeks.

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